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Working in an office with someone who acts offensively can quickly take the enjoyment out of the workday. The employee's peers might feel apprehensive about reporting the employee, but the supervisor can't take disciplinary steps until she becomes aware of the issue. Offensive behavior comes in many forms, and no one should be forced to accept it.
Offensive behavior can be egregious and intentional or minor and unintentional, but employees and supervisors should not tolerate it in any form in the workplace. Portland Community College reports that offensive behavior includes bullying, harassment, shouting, using profanity, humiliating others and in general, any activity that is unprofessional or inappropriate. Many supervisors consider using profanity as a minor form of offensive behavior, while behavior such as sexual harassment is more serious and can even be criminal.
If you work with a colleague who acts offensively, you have the right to confront the colleague. Workplace consultant Brandon Smith recommends avoiding the colleague in question as much as possible, and then documenting all the instances of offensive behavior as a next step. Confront the colleague in person and in private, and avoid making a scene. Explain calmly and respectfully that this type of behavior is offensive to you and request that it stop. If the colleague does not stop this behavior, report it to your supervisor or human resources department.
Upon receiving a complaint about an employee, a supervisor or human resources department must review the situation and determine which type of discipline is suitable. The type of discipline relates to the offense, and common disciplinary methods are a verbal warning, written warning, suspension from work and ultimately, termination, according to HR Hero. If an employee frequently uses profanity in the workplace, the appropriate discipline is often a verbal or written warning, but in the case of something more serious, the company might immediately terminate the employee.
Although nearly everyone has worked with an offensive colleague at some point, many people have been offensive, either by accident or in an attempt to be funny. To avoid offending your colleagues and being disciplined, consult your employee handbook to determine what your employer deems offensive behavior. For example, you might get away with an off-color joke on a construction site, but not in a law firm. If one of your colleagues asks you to avoid using a certain word or acting in a certain manner, take the request to heart, or you might find yourself being disciplined.
- Portland Community College: Standards for Professional Behavior for PCC Employees
- Federal Communications Commission: Understanding Workplace Harassment (FCC Staff)
- The Workplace Therapist: How to Confront Untrustworthy Co-Workers
- HR Hero: How to Discipline & Document Employee Behavior
- Manta: Harassment vs. Rude Behavior in the Workplace
- Virginia Department of Human Resource Management: Standards of Conduct
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.
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